I'm kind of at a loss as to where to post this, as this is one of those threads (56 posts at last count) that gets so long it's hard to figure out where to start and finish).
I have been doing minor IT consulting since I was about 22 (others start when they're 10 I suppose) and as I became familiar with moodle, and became the chief advocate/pimp/evangelist for my school, and eventually North Carolina (a state here in the U.S), it was inevitable that a few paid jobs came along. In one, I worked for a small district and basically suggested they get busy putting things online, and so we set up moodle- but most of the work was doing 4 websites. In another it was our internal Corporate and Continuing Ed dept for some training - they actually couldn't pay my company- they had to do some overload pay thru our HR since I was an employee. In other cases, I've gotten some small stipends or honorarium for presentations. Sometimes it's nothing, and sometimes its gas money.
So I assume I'm a lot like a lot of folks here - I'm confident very few moodlers are professional service providers (at least as a percentage) - I make my living as a teacher and an administrator. I have openly talked about one day wanting to teach half the time, and consult (originally with moodle) the other half. So I finally incorporated, made up a company name, got a business bank account, etc... Then I submitted a moodle partner application some time ago (a year, or two? It's all a blur) and after a brief back-and forth, it ended up dead in the water.
There is an active discussion OUTSIDE this forum that is far more secretive and goes on between all kinds of folks who are reluctant to post here for a variety of reasons. I am reluctant to post here because I now do work for a partner - and I don't want to hurt that - but my heart says it's necessary to write here, and I'd rather follow that than my wallet.
Folks are wondering why there has been no US partner approved in a LONG time. Folks are wondering what's going on with moodlerooms, and it's relationship to Martin, vis-a-vis other partners. Folks are wondering if, when they contribute to code, when they participate on this board, when the enhance and build the community immensely in their regions, why they can't be partners; Why their applications are in some kind of limbo. It'd be one thing to say, "Become a partner and you're legit" but that's not it. You're saying, "You can't use the name to offer any professional services associated with the name, oh, and by the way, you'll never be able to because we're not making any new partners."
So that's one concern- I don't know if it's an ethical or moral issue - but it just feels rotten to me. I've got a couple grand sitting in a bank account that I'd be happy to give to moodle as a partner, but since I can't be partner, what's my motivation? Nothing like reading a cease-and-desist letter to stamp out goodwill.
The other concern is actually much broader, and IMHO more critical to the community at large. Down here in the trenches of K-12, community colleges, non-profits, prisons, etc... we are in a high-stakes battle with commercial vendors to get moodle in before somebody in a suit signs a contract for 3 years with someone like blackCT. Moodle NEEDS professional representation and it needs a lot of it in a lote places. Moodle needs a presenter and a consultant at EVERY education conference with over a few hundred people. Moodle services need to show up in yellow pages, and banner ads (eww... did I say that?) and silver, gold and bronze sponsors at shows, and on those stupid shoestrings that hold your badge around your neck... the moodle name needs to synonymous with high-quality, low cost, improved education.
Would you buy a car if there was nobody who serviced that brand? Would you buy a computer that had no reputation? Or where the only people who could work on it for you were "under the table" not allowed to list the product on their site for fear of a letter of reprimand, and when doing so voided the warranty or hope of support from the public forum?
Martin, I know you - not well, but we've met and had brief conversations. I know some others in the community much better, and we've had some lengthy discussions on this. There is a huge body of conversation that you may never have access to (but which I'm sure you participate in) surrounding the partners program revenue streams, branding, forking, renaming, etc... As I said before, many are just not comfortable hanging this out here- and kudos to those who've spoken up.
Martin wrote "The bottom line is making the Moodle project sustainable into the future and keeping the software Free."
If this is REALLY the bottom line, then figure out a way for others to be part of the professional team. The small guys won't threaten the big partners - but they will help advocate moodle and get it into the small markets, and they will be happy to give 10% back to moodle. There could be a long discussion about the short and long-term consequencies of monopolies or oligopolies - but normally it wouldn't involve a healthy, thriving, happy community.
ps: I can't stop thinking about bicycleunderpantsCMS....